Although the Knicks-Hawks playoff series doesn’t start until Sunday, the NBA officials have already handed out its first “technical” to Nate McMillan.
The interim Hawks coach was fined $25,000 for comments deemed “asserting bias by the NBA relating to the 2020-21 Playoffs,” the league announced on Wednesday.
The comments were as follows:
I’ve talked about that to the team a lot. The league wants this. They need this. New York. It’s a big market for the league, and New York has been out of the playoffs for a lot of years, and this is a team our league wants to see.
And this is a team that our league, they want to see — there’s a huge fan base — and they want to see New York in the playoffs.
While on the surface this is no worse than what LeBron James said on Twitter about the Knicks a month ago, timing is everything. A comment like this less than a week before what most consider a pick ’em playoffs series could be construed as implying the refs might have favorable whistles New York’s way.
But here’s the thing. Conversation like this go on all the time in locker rooms. They can be a great motivational tool, especially for the Hawks who already have been treated as an afterthought in this series (despite being arguably more talented and deeper on paper). In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if McMillan did this purposely just to further show his team the league isn’t in their corner.
Just last year we got the Michael Jordan meme that keeps on giving (“And I took that personal…”). The Atlanta Hawks will likely take that same mentality into game 1 this Sunday, and the Knicks better be prepared to meet it by firing on all cylinders.